Remember to spray on your deodorant first, yeah?

Paul Raven @ 17-09-2010

A brief “hey, look, tech!” post, simply because it seems to be everywhere at the moment, and I’d totally jump off a cliff if all my friends were doing it too*: spray-on clothing!

The spray consists of short fibres that are mixed into a solvent, allowing it to be sprayed from a can or high-pressure spray gun. The fibres are mixed with polymers that bind them together to form a fabric. The texture of the fabric can be varied by using wool, linen or acrylic fibres.

The fabric, which dries when it meets the skin, is very cold when it is sprayed on, a limitation that may frustrate hopes for spray-on trousers and other garments.

“I really wanted to make a futuristic, seamless, quick and comfortable material,” said Torres. “In my quest to produce this kind of fabric, I ended up returning to the principles of the earliest textiles such as felt, which were also produced by taking fibres and finding a way of binding them together without having to weave or stitch them.”

Apparently it takes fifteen minutes to spray a T-shirt onto a model, which (for now at least) pretty much ruins the only practical selling point of spray-on clothing, namely convenience. But sensibly Torres has other (more sensible but less headline-worthy) applications in mind, e.g. medical. The cynic in me wonders if he didn’t think of the medical apps first and come up with the clothing thing as an effective marketing gambit… whether he did or not, it seems to have worked.

And your sf-nal pat-ourselves-on-the-back-for-prescience moment: Technovelgy points out that good ol’ Stanislav Lem wrote about spray-on clothes back in 1961. I dare say it’s been mentioned in fiction a few times since.

[ * That particular parental rejoinder has always bothered me. I remember responding to it once with something along the lines of “if I saw a trampoline at the bottom, then yes”. I think I may have been sent to my room afterwards. ]


Bacterial biker jackets and after-market parts for people

Paul Raven @ 12-07-2010

This year seems like it’ll be the one where the mainstream starts talking about custom-made replacement organs as something more than science fiction. A few weeks back we heard about the rat who got a new set of lab-grown lungs; this week, Wired is running a photo-essay on bioprinting that’s a must-see for anyone who wants to be able to write a plausible description of the working environment of a contemporary Frankenstein.

Bioreactor - image credited to Dave Bullock/Wired.com

Meanwhile [via BoingBoing] Ecouterre reports on UK-based designer Suzanne Lee, who’s been using bacteria to grow an entire range of clothing from a rather mundane starting point – sweetened green tea. The end results are made entirely of cellulose, though they look (to me at least) like the skin of something that still slinks through radiation-soaked cities long after the posthumans abandoned Earth for the new terrain at the top of the gravity well…

Bio-couture jacket by Suzanne Lee

Organic ain’t yer only option, though, no sir. 3D printing means one-off custom designs of mechanical prosthetic limb can be made for amputees or other folk with different levels of physical ability… and not just for us longpigs, either, as Oscar the cyborg cat ably demonstrates. 3D printing is still an unevenly distributed piece of the future, of course, but it’s spreading fast; Ponoko have just set up their first 3D print hub here in the UK, and if they can afford to do that in the current economic climate, the business model must have something going for it, right?

It’s interesting to see the organic and inorganic racing along in parallel like this; it doesn’t take a genius to see the possibilities of the two streams converging somewhere down the line, though I’d guess that’s a good few decades off from the present day. What’s interesting to me about these phenomena is the way they seem to be an end-game expression of the desire for individuality and customisation; at the moment, price will keep all but those with a serious need for these products out of the market, but as prices fall, everything will become bespoke, unique, a one-off. Which is kind of ironic if you think about it: through the total ubiquity of mechanised manufacture, we’re actually putting an end to mass production.


Nokia creates flexible phone prototype that can be worn as bracelet

Tomas Martin @ 25-02-2008

Nokia innovates new flexible mobile phonesExciting times in the world of electronics as phone company Nokia have designed a wearable, flexible phone. Resembling a normal handset folded in half, when fully unrolled it can be used as a keyboard but it can also be folded lengthways and widthways and curled into a bracelet to wear on the wrist.

Although current battery technology isn’t good enough to join this flexible technology revolution as improvements in nanowire batteries and even static electricity generating clothing could mean that in ten year’s time we wear our phone/mp3 player/personal computer on our sleeve and link up our headphones to it wirelessly.

[image and story via the Guardian]


Power-generating … shirts?

Paul Raven @ 29-10-2007

ipod sleeve Now this is just a great idea, plain and simple – clothing made from fabrics with piezo-electric materials embedded in them, which will generate electric current as a result of the flexing produced by the wearer’s motion. The project has been sponsored to the tune of AUS$4.4million by the Australian Defence Department, and the potential for military applications is obvious enough, but the same technology would be very lucrative in the commercial sector too. Of course, it’s not in the bag yet – the researchers behind the idea suggest a viable product may be ready in four or five years – but the day when I can travel without having to pack an arsenal of batteries and wall-warts can’t come soon enough. [Via SmartMobs] [Image by Mgus]

[tags]mobile, devices, power, generation, clothing[/tags]